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December 09, 2012


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VAP star

Isn't there some concern about having a paper trail? (I'm thinking of the recently released university emails discussing the Colorado shooter.) I assume live faculty meetings can help maintain confidentiality better than sending emails on a controversial topic, although email sounds great for housekeeping and mundanity.

Orin Kerr

I'm with VAP star. At my law school, an "all faculty" e-mail exchange was recently forwarded to and published by Above the Law. That was suboptimal.


There can be value in actually meeting but meetings should only be held when there is business to be done, never just to meet, and there should be time limits, which can be enforced via the midday meeting when people will have to leave to teach. Because so many law faculty do so little, faculty meetings can be a source of a huge waste of time. Committee meetings ditto, though these are far easier to handle via email, and again, should never be called just to meet.

Doug Richmond

At some public law schools, might not faculty meetings be subject to state open meeting act or regulation requirements? If so, at least in theory, people with impure agendas could attend, thus defeating the confidentiality objective VAP star and Prof. Kerr mention.

Jacqueline Lipton

While I sympathize with VAP star and Orin and they make good points, I'm not sure that we're really talking about the same thing. Security is always a problem with emails so if a topic is controversial it can always be scheduled for a face to face meeting (like hiring, appointments, etc.). But even the fact that something is scheduled for a face to face meeting doesn't stop people emailing about it as is currently the case. The idea of only scheduling faculty meetings when they're needed to discuss something sensitive would likely not in and of itself discourage people from exercising bad judgment over email, nor would it presumably encourage them to act that way. People will write unfortunate emails whether or not everyday mundane business is conducted routinely over email, won't they?

Jeff Yates

I wrote about a related topic (telecommuting for lawyers - link below) and it seems that people just really, really like their meetings - I think that many people need a live audience for their speeches ;-)

Bill Reynolds

One problem is the increase in faculty size--I started teaching 40 years ago and only 25 or so`came to a meeting. The meetings were productive and even fun--lots of humor. Our meetings now have more than 50 persons present and little of substance and less of fun gets discussed. A well-run committeee with goood faculty connections eliminates the need for most of what goes on in faculty meetings.

I believe that Deans often use filler (announcements, etc) to stretch out the meeting because there is so little really on the agenda. (BTW: when I ran appointments during the 90s, I routinely would put our recs at the end of the agenda; the idea was that after much time had been wasted on idiotic conversation, the faculty could ot come to grips with my comm recs. We almost always prevailed without argument.)


I have taught at several law schools and none of them had monthly faculty meetings. I've typically had one faculty meeting at the beginning of the year and a couple at the end of the semester for appointments and tenure or pre-tenure review cases. Occasionally, there are more in the case of a curriculum reform proposal or something like that or in anticipation of a self-study (in which case, there are additional meetings scheduled, but they are more like town halls for discussion than anything else). Monthly meetings sound odd, unless they are just scheduled to hold the date and then cancelled when there is nothing of substance to discuss.


The short answer is yes;have faculty meetings but only when absolutely necessary. Too often monthly faculty meetings come complete with filler best reserved for emails b/c administrations feel they need to have a meeting and since they don't have much to discuss they'll find something to take up the time. Far too much time is wasted in unecessary faculty and committee meetings. And too often those who realize it and choose to attend judiciously are later penalized because their name doesn't show up often enough on the attendance sheets.

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